Religious freedom scarcely exists

Religious freedom is an oxymoron for about three-quarters of the world, according to a United Nations investigator.

Ahmed Shaheed, who is a human rights expert, has been investigating religious rights. He has asked for the repeal of all laws that undermine people’s right to freedom of religion or belief, or discriminate against that right.

“Increases in unlawful government restrictions against religious groups remain one of the primary and most fundamental factors resulting in higher levels of religious intolerance in any given society,” he says.

These laws either restrict the right to religion or belief, or have “a high level of social hostility involving religion or belief,” he continues.

Shaheed says over 70 countries have anti-blasphemy laws that can be used to suppress dissenting views, which is in violation of international human rights standards. He wants these anti-blasphemy laws to be repealed.

He is urging all countries to adopt and enforce “adequate criminal sanctions which penalise violent and particularly egregious discriminatory acts perpetrated by state or non-state actors against persons based on their religion or belief.”

Shaheed says governments must also pay “particular attention” to uphold the obligation to protect religious minorities.

Discrimination takes many forms. Some prohibit all religions or beliefs while others may be indirect.

These may include zoning laws that prevent particular houses of worship to be built. Others ban refugees or immigrants, “ostensibly for national security reasons, from countries where majority populations belong to particular faith communities,” Shaheed says.

“Increases in unlawful government restrictions against religious groups remain one of the primary and most fundamental factors resulting in higher levels of religious intolerance in any given society.”

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News category: World.

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